Soccer

Everton begins search for manager to replace Moyes

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MANCHESTER, England (AP)

As a theater and film producer, Bill Kenwright knows a story when he sees it.

In his other life, as chairman of English Premier League club Everton, he has experienced a pretty special one close up.

Kenwright was almost in tears as he reminisced about his ''11-year adventure'' with David Moyes, who announced on Thursday he would be leaving Everton at the end of the season to become the new manager of Manchester United.

''He's a great manager and Manchester United are very lucky,'' Kenwright said. ''I'm pretty certain Evertonians will only look on David with gratitude.''

The focus turns on who will replace Moyes at Goodison Park.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is the favorite with the British bookmakers, although the Spaniard - preparing for an FA Cup final against Wigan on Saturday and the fight next week to stay in the Premier League - said he hasn't been contacted.

''It would be a waste of time because the next eight days are just about the most exciting in the club's history,'' Martinez said. ''Nothing is going to distract us or take our focus away from that.

''If I am being linked with other clubs, I take it as a compliment, because it means things are going well and you are doing something right.''

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup is also being linked while Mark Hughes, the former Manchester City, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers manager, appeared to put himself in the frame.

''It is a great club, a club I had the fortune to play for and I really enjoyed my time there,'' said Hughes, who played for Everton from 2000-02. ''Whoever gets that opportunity, it is a really big club and really big shoes to fill.

''It's an opportunity for somebody and I back myself for most jobs in the Premier League.''

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has also been touted as a potential candidate.

Just as Moyes has a tough job matching the achievements of Alex Ferguson, whoever replaces Moyes at Everton will have a similarly difficult task.

Under the Scot, Everton has finished in the Premier League's top eight every year since 2007 and should place sixth this season, ahead of Liverpool. For a club with limited means, Everton has overachieved under Moyes.

''Eleven years ago, I made a decision and it was an instant decision when I met David,'' an emotional Kenwright said. ''I don't think that can happen this time. We have got to be out there looking to see what kind of candidates can take the club forward.''

Everton remains a big club. Before Ferguson took charge of United in 1986, United (with seven) had one fewer English league titles than Everton and the team's success in the mid-to-late 1980s guarantees it still has a large fan base around the world.

With players such as Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard in the squad, the future can still be bright.

However, Everton's last major trophy remains the FA Cup in 1995 and success-starved fans will want a new manager who can replicate the stability and style of football under Moyes, but also add some trophies to the mix.

''It's been an extraordinary 24 hours,'' Kenwright said, ''and it is important now that we finish off the season against West Ham and Chelsea, maintain our position and that from here on Everton continues, in the David Moyes and Everton tradition, with an equally significant manager.''

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